Rescuer Award presented to Newfoundland and Labrador man for saving friend with CPR during basketball game

Adam Boyles holding is rescuer award
Adam Boyles of St. John’s was recently honoured with a Rescuer Award from the Canadian Red Cross for intervening and performing CPR after his friend John McDermott experienced cardiac arrest on a basketball court at the YMCA in St. John’s in March 2023.

The two met regularly on the court but that day Boyles debated staying at home before deciding to meet McDermott for a two-on-two game which spanned an hour and a half before McDermott collapsed after winning with a three-point field goal, a shot made from beyond the three-point line and one of the hardest to master in basketball.

“I was impressed with John's ability to keep up with the younger guys. It was a tight game. I congratulated him and went to get a drink of water. I was gone less than a minute.”

When BoyIes returned, he saw McDermott slumped on the floor against a wall, beside a leaking overturned water bottle.    

“I rushed to him and flipped him over to find him completely lifeless. After about two minutes of mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions, the life came back to his eyes, and he took a deep breath. He remained unconscious and appeared to be unable to breathe regularly so I kept up CPR.”

A staff member stepped in to assist with chest compressions while an exhausted Boyles continued mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until paramedics arrived 20 minutes later.

McDermott, who played basketball in college and is the son of Naismith Hall of Famer Bobby McDermott, nominated Boyles for the Rescuer Award. He describes his ordeal with emotion and adds he is extremely grateful for Boyles’ intervention.

“I sat down to sip some water and had a heart attack. I was dead. The gym cleared as people sought help but not Adam. He understood the moment. I had little time.”

McDermott recalls Adam yelling to him as he went in and out of consciousness.

“He was shouting to me, “you are not going on my watch”. Apparently, I threw up. The guy didn’t stop. In the ambulance I was told that Adam saved my life. He had also prevented brain damage.”

After open-heart surgery and a month-long recovery at the Health Sciences Centre, McDermott is recovering well. Both friends and their families remain close.

Boyles is thankful to have remembered his CPR skills from a first aid course he completed years prior.

“I hope it inspires people to complete their first aid training because you never know when a loved one, or someone else's loved one, can be saved.”

The Canadian Red Cross presents Rescuer Awards to honour untrained or non-professional rescuers as well as off-duty first responders for actions such as providing first aid, CPR or other medical assistance. Nominations come from the public.

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